Oh Pizzle, Not another Rock!
Rocking out with your favorite band is fun, passing rocks through your urinary tract is not. If you’re cringing in sympathy, you know that passing urinary stones can be a painful experience in any species. Urinary stones (called uroliths or urinary calculi) are particularly prevalent in our small ruminant friends like Woolter and especially in castrated male goats. Depending on the number and size of stones and whether or not the urinary system is blocked, your goat may just look a little ADR (Aint Doing Right) or he may be straining and bleating in pain with a hunched back and a bloated belly. A plugged urinary tract is not only painful, it ican be life threatening. Pain relievers will help make him feel better but anesthesia is required to drain the bladder and re-establish urine flow. Sounds simple but it often isn’t, especially if the condition has been going on awhile.
Stones, or urinary calculi form from the concretion of mineral crystals and muco-proteins that pass through the urinary filtering system. They range in size from tiny grains of sand to small pebbles. Urinary calculi are more of a problem for male goats because of their anatomy. The male goat urinary outflow system is comprised of a small diameter urethra that wanders a lovely “S” shape pathway through the penis as it exits the abdomen. Called the “sigmoid flexure”, this is a prime spot for collecting stones. In case that isn’t enough, another problematic bit of anatomy is located at the very end of the urethra, at the urethral process or “pizzle” which can also be blocked by stones. If all that isn’t enough…. the goat naturally produces a ph basic urine which encourages crystal formation AND there may even be a genetic predisposition.
Yikes! With anatomy and genetics stacked against him, what’s a fellah to do? Well, the poor goat is what he is, what we can do is to not add more contributing factors to the problem. We are what we eat and feeds like grain and alfalfa hay increase the amount of crystal formation in the urine. So, as a rule of thumb, don’t feed your goats grain or alfalfa. We recommend a diet of timothy, orchard or teff hay with appropriate vitamin/mineral supplements. Adding plain table salt, 2 to 3 tablespoons per day, per animal will encourage water consumption, helping to flush out any crystals that do form. So keep lots of fresh water available and go ahead and turn up the radio, your happy goats may dance along to your favorite rock band too.